[Air-l] Boundaries & Learning Re: Korean students

R.Mabry-Hubbard (UMC Student) ryh352 at mizzou.edu
Wed Jun 14 19:01:07 PDT 2006

Han wrote: 
>> But please understand that they are undergraduate kids 
>> and this is a valuable learning process.

As others have implied, the Korean students have us considering [as social
scientist], the entire issue of boundaries.  I think as future researchers,
the students will probably learn a lot from this experience about formal,
informal, and especially invisible boundaries of all social groups whether
they are in Geospace or cyberspace.

I hope their experiences will provoke class discussion about boundaries and
how to avoid violating unknown cultural boundaries by first listening and
observing (lurking) to understand the group's norms (etiquette) for
welcoming and introducing potential new participants.

IMHO, we as social scientist also have something to learn.  We made
assumptions based on the "face" of the message which led to imposing
sanctions against the perceived "deviants" by filtering them out as  spam.
Aren't these the type of dynamics we are trying to understand about the
Internet as a social world?  The group's immediate reaction reminds me of
the early and mid 1990's when AOL "newbies" were so vilified for not
understanding netiquette.  In the end, the newbies won by sheer numbers so
there is no consensus on how to insert yourself into the existing
conversation -- especially if you want to "change" or introduce a new topic
to the existing participants.

IMHO, this is a "teaching moment" for both the students and for ourselves as
researchers.  The group is for "internet researchers" but some of us
apparently have very specific definition of what "internet research" posts
are valid questions?  What are the group's boundaries for topic discussions
(rhetorical question only)?  My two cents.

Deana wrote:
> .. that's the same reason why I quit using this kind of 
> assignment.  My students never really read the messages 
> on the lists that I had them subscribe to.

As for pedagogy, I would like to try this assignment.  However, I would have
my students lurk first and write a profile of the group they have selected
to join.   The profile would include some statements about the group's norms
(netiquette) and identifying a strategy for "joining the conversation" and
posting their research.  I would also have them include a discussion of what
would happen if they violated the group norms so their message is considered
spam or "flame bait." This profile would be the pre-assignment before they
are allowed to post.  Then, of course, I would have them write a short
"ethnographic" description of what happened when they joined the lists and
posted.  They actually become participant-observers doing field work.
Because, I want them to be familiar with the IRB (legal ethics requirements
for Americans researchers), I would like them to include some discussion of
the ethics issue as a participant-observer researcher. 


Robin Y. Mabry Hubbard, MBA, EdS
Rural Sociology Doctoral Student - Community Informatics
Email: ryh352 at mizzou.edu  My Homepage: http://www.rrchubbard.org
Murphy's Law: There is never enough time to do it right; but there is always
time to do it over
~ Our Future arrived Yesterday!  ~
[I am not inviting any postmodernist to my party!] 

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